Google’s Attempt at Community Mapping

Google’s LatLong blog has announced Google MapMaker, their foray into community-driven mapping for the Google Maps site.

It’s only open for editing in a few countries at the moment – places like Iceland, Jamaica, and the Barbados, which we can assume have limited coverage already. It seems safe to assume this will be expanded in the near future to include more areas.

The OpenGeoData blog has a few scathing things to say about it:Google have launched MapMaker, a kind of faux OpenStreetMap where they own all the data and you’re only allowed to map in certain Freedom Of Speech Zones.

Like Knol, the mooted ‘wikipedia killer’, Google refuse to acknowledge existing communities, trample on their hard work and lack the mindset to engage with an open project. The OpenStreetMap project is a ridiculously awesome open collaboration between people all around the world that are trying to solve the problem of outdated and expensive maps for GPS systems.

They have a Google Maps-esque system where you can look at the maps online, as well as a comprehensive Wiki that explains how to use the maps. Obviously there’s a lot of incentive for the normal consumer GPS devices to not be readily compatible with these things as they no doubt make a killing selling you maps – but hopefully this sort of data will inevitably become the norm.

Check out this animation showing how the level of available maps has grown over the last few years (it’ll look like a black page for a while, but give it a second – it’s loading).

As soon as time permits I would love to get involved; if not directly then certainly by looking at some sort of sponsorship or competition via AusGamers to get other people interested that might have a bit more spare time than I do.

In the meantime, if you’re going to spend your time working on maps that you want to make available, I’d strongly encourage you to give Google a miss on this one. Putting it on OpenStreetMap means your work will be available to be used much more freely – all work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Why doesn’t Google just make all their maps available under Creative Commons? Well, the most likely explanation is that they’re not Google’s maps – they presumably don’t own them outright and just have a license to use them on their site.

That said, there’s nothing stopping them from using the OpenStreetMaps system as a supplementary data system and encouraging people to contribute to it – well, other than the fact that this way they get to own all the data and use it as they see fit. Maybe they’ll open it up in other ways later down the track though.

Revision3 Content Creative Commons Status Confirmed

Revision3 got back to me and have confirmed that their content is still indeed released under a Creative Commons license.

It should be noted again though that redistribution of their “early access” releases – the shows made available for subscribers – is still strictly forbidden by their license agreement. In the interests of keeping the free content coming it’s obviously in everyone’s best interests to respect this policy.

Revision3 and the Missing Creative Commons Logo is one of the biggest content creators in the burgeoning “Internet TV” market. They create and distribute a variety of popular shows, including Diggnation (as in, the pervasive social bookmarking site), PixelPerfect, Internet Superstar, and many others.

The site originally sported the Creative Commons logo – you might’ve seen it around:

This logo implies that the works on the site are made available under a Creative Commons license. While there are several different types of CC licenses, the most commonly used license is one that allows redistribution of content. This is extremely handy for us in Australia, as it means ISPs can easily mirror their content to make it available for their users usage-free. This is kind of a big deal, as any Australian broadband user will tell you, and I suspect will become a bigger deal for people in the US as they clamp down more on wild bandwidth usage.

Recently the site got a big overhaul – I don’t know when; I only visit it every couple months when I see they have a new show, and the Wayback Machine only goes back to August 2007.

Conspicuously absent from the new design – the Creative Commons logo.

Closer inspection also reveals the Creative Commons information is now not available in their content RSS feeds. I am not sure if it ever was, but I have a vague recollection it used to be – backed up by the fact that the RSS XML includes a references to a Creative Commons namespace. However, the feed doesn’t appear to be using that namespace at all – there’s no license applied to the relevant sections of the RSS document.

Some Googling also reveals that there has been a bit of angst from the Revision3 guys towards redistribution – part of their revenue model is to make episodes available early via a private access system to paying subscribers. However, it seems some dastardly types would get those early release videos and then distribute them publicly, citing the Creative Commons as their reason for doing so. Legal issues aside, it’s obviously a douchebag thing to do, and it’s unsurprising that Revision3 took legal action to try and stamp it out.

A quick read of the the Terms of use for the site doesn’t really mention much about the content. It does specifically mention that you can’t redistribute “member only, not publicly released downloads” – hopefully putting a stop to people leaking those subscriber-only early access videos.

There’s one reference to Creative Commons:

By uploading, submitting or otherwise disclosing or distributing Content of any kind at or on the Site or otherwise through the Services, unless source quoted, you represent and warrant that you own all rights in the Content and you agree that the Content will be subject to the Creative Commons Public Domain License, available at All of our non-member downloads comply with creative commons 2.5.

(Emphasis mine).

This raises the question of what exactly constitues “non-member downloads”. It seems that is it probably the video content that we’re after, but it’s just a little bit too vague, especially in the context of a legal agreement.

The current situation and the net result of the above is that, at least to my eyes, the licensing of the Revision3 content is now more nebulous than it was previously, simply because of the removal of the Creative Commons logo.

While it is possible that they’re trying to distance themselves from the Creative Commons license with a view to better control and accounting of the distribution of their content, it seems that this is. It’d also be a huge shame, because it would probably dramatically decrease their audience, the size of which is arguably a direct result of their distribution model.

Last week I emailed Revision3’s official contact address to try and clarify this position – as yet I haven’t received a reply, so I have emailed them again today (from a different address, in case spam filtering was an issue) and I have also posed the same question publicly on their forums.